Hi Jimi, I’m Jack
Kumares (Jack) Nathan, 360° Head Rotation co-founder, musical collaborator, and my very dear friend of almost 15 years is dead. He was cremated with his beloved “Frankenstein” custom “Jack Series” guitar on Monday 25 September 2006 around 4pm. Tomorrow, Saturday 26 September 2006 his ashes shall be taken to his favorite spot, a friend’s farm/dusun near Rasa Town/Kuala Kubu Bahru, and released in a stream running across the property. A tribute gig shall be held once we manage to shake this fog and extreme grief that’s clouding our heads.
At sometime between 12:00-1:00 am Sunday 24 September 2006 he was riding a bicycle home to the Palm Springs Apartment complex in the Mutiara Damansara area when he was hit by a car. An eyewitness who was driving behind that vehicle clocked its speed at over 100 KPH. The eyewitness said that the driver was speeding away to avoid a police roadblock.
Upon hitting Jack, the driver sped off. I learned that the driver has since turned himself in and is out on bail.
Jack would have been 41 years old this coming October 6.
In all these years that I’d known Jack, he hardly spoke about his personal life. Most of our discussions revolved around music and musicians. Once in a while, he’d fill me in on some bits and pieces.
I know he was born in Bukit Mertajam, Penang. Youngest in a family of 4, he had 3 elder brothers, Nathan and Steve and a sister, Devi. His dad was a headmaster and his mom a housewife. All the boys played guitar well. There appeared to be a genetic disposition and almost instinctual inclination and ability when it came to that instrument. Nathan started Jack on what was to be a lifelong passion for the blues, namely Clapton’s particular brand. After he completed his SPM/O’ Levels, he traveled to Singapore and studied industrial design. Later, he found himself in KL and began his career as a professional musician. I understand he had a brief stint with the legendary pub band Streetlights. Sometime in the early nineties, he hooked up with Victor, Joyce, Roger and Bino to form the Country Hearts. They were the resident band at now defunct pub Longhorn and alternated sets with seminal KL country band Os Pombos. Over the past few years, he lived with his sister Devi and her husband Ranjit.
He lived a blues player’s, life. A roller coaster of extreme joy alternating with hitting the bleakest rock bottom.
Jack and I met sometime in 1992 through our mutual friend, Victor. Jack played lead guitar and fiddle. He fit the wild west frontier town saloon theme at Longhorn, belt buckle the size of a motorcycle hubcap, cowboy boots, jeans, checkered shirt, ten gallon hat. He sported shoulder length hair and had a sinister scar running down the left side of his face. Mean guitar and fiddle playing motherf****r. He got the scar in a bar fight when he was hit with a glass beer pitcher trying to defend one of the waitresses from some customers who were roughing her up.
They’d allow guest artists to jam on Sunday nights. I’d go there and do Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and Jack would go totally Hendrix. We’d sometimes do a few original numbers I’d written. We came from totally different backgrounds, Jack worshipped Eric Clapton and Hendrix, I was on the Cure and Bauhaus musical universe. Nonetheless, when we jammed, there was a connection, two totally different musical directions had merged to create what could only be described as a Punk Blues Goth Rock hybrid.
We all got to know each other well. On a fishing trip, we learned that we shared the same birthday. Jack was a year older than me.
The first recording we made was sometime in 1993, it consisted of two songs I’d written, “Just One Morning” and “Sunrise”. Jack had to FEEL what he was playing, so he asked me describe each song, its meaning and imagery I hoped to evoke. I sat down and told him “Just One Morning” should conjure a the picture of Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie enjoying a nasty ménage trois with farm hands in a hay cart amidst a bunch of chainsaws caught in a twister (this was in the early days of my song writing). “Sunrise” was something out of that vampire fetish every person listening to the Cure and Bauhaus seems to fall prey to.
That essentially set the way we wrote songs together. I’d paint a situation in words and a basic melody, Jack would bring it to aural life.
1994 – 2003 Jack and I hardly saw each other, I’d started my stint as an oil and gas consultant and was living out of a suitcase. Jack was working for Axis (sp?), an advertising company, he was doing production work. Occasionally, I’d go on set and watch him work, there’d almost always be a guitar nearby, he’d get possessed by Hendrix and launch into a 30 minute solo.
Sometime in 2003 we reconnected. I wandered into Paul’s Place in Damansara Utama one evening, Amir Yusoff was jamming on drums and a guy dressed neatly with a corporate haircut was playing guitar. I told Paul (or Amir), “That guy looks a lot like an old buddy of mine, Jack Nathan”. Turns out it was Jack. He’d been helping Paul build the stage and was doing some handyman work around the venue. Many beers followed that night.
Later that year Peter Hassan Brown was organizing a gig in Jam Asia. He asked if I’d be interested in performing. I told him to give me a couple of days to think of it. I immediately called Jack.
The proposed line up of 360° Head Rotation was me, Jack, drum machine and sequencer. However, I figured since I’d been doing so much simulation and computer work for my day job, I didn’t want to twiddle knobs and write code.
The first line up was me, Jack, Edmun Anthony and Paul Millot. We practiced once. At the end of that practice, Edmun looked at me with a look I can only describe as horror and politely declined to participate in any future practices. Paul had commitments with his band Brown Sugar. Both Paul and Edmun returned to perform with us as sessionists.
Jack got headhunting duty. He had about 3 weeks to find a rhythm section. In a couple of days, he nabbed Mohd Nuhi (Monkey Boy) Selamat on drums and bassist Nazrul Ahmad. They were performing in a local Seattle Sound outfit, Hike.
For the next three years, we played over 20 gigs and started recording our debut album. It was fun for me, a diversion from the world of oil and gas and a chance to pander to the right side of my brain. To Jack, this was serious work. He threw himself to the task of arranging and perfecting his and all other instrumental parts for the songs. We’d spend hours getting the proper sound levels, quality in the studio and even more hours mixing and engineering the tracks with recording engineer Meng at Standing Wave Studios. Over the years, we’d developed our “sound”. Thundering drums, mephistopholean lyrics, driving bass and the signature Jack Nathan blues punk guitar. Amps up to 11. Sweat and spit on stage.
For the more genteel crowd, Jack and I developed some acoustic arrangements and deployed them in venues like La Bodega and No Black Tie II. They were interesting but nothing like our full electric sets.
Over the years, Jack was recognized as one of the most innovative guitarists and was held in high esteem in the pub musician and independent music communities. Jack loved all aspects of music, the playing, the lights, the glamour photo shots (don’t ask). He was one of the most gregarious and amiable people I know, always making new friends. We made up bunch of business cards with snarky titles for the band. Jack was the “Sex Symbol & Lead Guitarist”.
I am neither spiritual nor religious. I don’t subscribe to afterlife models proscribed by scripture or divinely inspired text. However, I now see the benefit of having that sort of faith.
Because I could then comfort myself with an image of Jack passing through that tunnel and walking toward the bright white light.
Holding his Frankenstein guitar.
Approaching the light, he sees a wild haired man wearing an old military jacket.
Smiles, extends his hand and says,
“Hi Jimi, I’m Jack.”
“Lemme show you how we play blues guitar.”